Shackpets | Available on iOS and Google Play Store

Rainbow Six Siege: Hands on with Thunderbird and the North Star update

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege visits the Nakoda First Nation for its next Operator and Shacknews jumps in for this hands-on preview.


Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege has been an international operation, bringing aboard the best and the brightest from around the world. For the upcoming North Star update, players will get to meet a new Defender from here in North America. More specifically, they'll meet a Native American Operator from the Nakoda First Nation. Thunderbird brings some new twists to defense in Siege, ones that should greatly benefit her team, as well as the offense if the defensive team gets sloppy.

In addition to her SPEAR .308 assault rifle and BEARING 9 machine pistol, Thunderbird brings along a gadget called the Kona Healing Station. It's just what it sounds like. Kona Stations can be deployed in various spots across any map. Thunderbird has one of the higher speed stats out of the current crop of Siege Operators, which will be helpful, because she'll get up to three Kona Stations for each session. Any ally that stands near the Kona Station will receive a burst of healing. If an ally is already at full health, they will be overhealed for a brief period. The Kona Station is so effective that it can even make a teammate on the brink of death stop bleeding out, though they'll still need to be manually revived.

Defenses will need to communicate to make the most of the Kona Station. Once it goes off, there's a brief cooldown period. Don't hog the station if you're already near full health, because you might be the reason a lower-health teammate doesn't make it. The other thing to keep in mind is that the Kona Station works for everyone. If you're not careful and leave the Kona Station anywhere, the Attackers can also take advantage of it and heal themselves. There were a few instances during my hands-on time with Thunderbird where the difference in a 1-on-1 was the Attacker finding a stray Kona Station and using it to heal themselves before dispatching the last Defender.

One other big change coming in North Star is a significantly reimagined Favela map. The biggest difference is that the map will now take place in the middle of the night. As fireworks light up the skies outside, players will content with more tightly placed rooms and a better map overview, which should prevent players getting lost and going the wrong direction. Plus, exterior walls are no longer destructible, so you'll need to find a different way to get inside the building.

The new Operator and the redesigned map would normally be a good stopping point for any Rainbow Six Siege update, but Ubisoft Montreal has some big plans for North Star, some that might overhaul how the game is played, period. The first major change is coming to the armor system. Armor will now be converted to additional health, a chance the developers hope will help players better gauge armor's impact. Another massive change comes to bullet holes. To this stage, bullet holes would allow for players fire through walls from a fine point. That's now going to drastically change, as players will no longer be able to peek through or fire through a single bullet hole. Similarly, players have had issues with smoke bleeding through walls in ways they normally shouldn't. Smoke physics have been revamped significantly and will no longer go through walls in unnatural ways. The color for smoke has also been changed, so that it's easier to see from a distance.

Another big way that players have found themselves at the wrong end of a bad death has been by tripping over corpses. It's worse because corpses would only show up on the client side. Ubisoft Montreal is fixing the corpse problem by having dead bodies dissolve from play. Those bodies will be replaced by Operator icons, so that players can still determine which players died where.

North Star will introduce a new way to disrupt certain gadgets and devices. This update will debut a new shattered glass effect. Strike something like Maestro's Evil Eye turret with a few melee strikes and the bulletproof glass will be shattered. These devices will still be usable, but players will be flying blind.

This is just the beginning for a series of significant adjustments to Rainbow Six Siege as a whole. Down the road, Ubisoft is looking to add additional opportunities to keep playing after death. This includes Attackers using their drones and Defenders controlling some of their gadgets and will eventually extend to other features, such as the ability to fire EMPs from surveillance cameras.

Rainbow Six Siege's North Star update promises to be a hefty one, bringing all of the aforementioned changes, as well as bug fixes and significant balance tweaks to Melusi, Mira, and Maestro. Those on the PC Test Server won't have to wait too long to check all of this out. North Star will go live on the Test Servers on Tuesday, May 25. The full update will go out to all platforms soon after. You can learn more about Thunderbird's backstory over on the Rainbow Six Siege website. And be sure to check out the rest of the Rainbow Six Invitational, which is wrapping up today.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 23, 2021 8:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Rainbow Six Siege: Hands on with Thunderbird and the North Star update

    • reply
      May 23, 2021 9:57 AM


    • reply
      May 23, 2021 10:12 AM

      A lot to process in the coming update. I think the drone/cam interaction after death, while being tested on the test server first, is clearly overpowered. I guess the Favela rework can be considered a new map but why casual only? I suppose if feedback is good it could be bumped up to ranked or pro but Siege has always had this terrible schizophrenia between pro/casual game design. The game is beginning to show it's age though... I really wish they would just create a new, solid, bug free game engine and port everyone over to it but easy money is easy money to UBI.

      • reply
        May 23, 2021 10:13 AM


      • reply
        May 23, 2021 5:41 PM

        I think the game is super tight right now. I think they classify Favela and House as casual as their fundamental layout doesn't play well for pros. IMO it's the most fun MP I've ever had.

        The post-death play is certainly something they're testing. But it's a smart path to consider for player engagement - waiting on the sidelines for 3 mins after a spawnpeek turns quite a few off the game. I bet they will remove gadget interaction and perhaps add some more limitations post testing (they could e.g. nerf post-death drone mobility).

      • reply
        May 23, 2021 9:51 PM

        After death interactions makes sense to me cause as time went on more and more people just tab out and stop paying attention at all when they die. Which sucks because siege is an intel based game and dead teammates are supposed to be watching cams and making callouts but that's not enough to keep people engaged anymore.

    • reply
      May 23, 2021 5:35 PM

      Such an epic Invitationals, I've watched pretty much all games in the playoffs. Holy shit @ Brazil performance, they ran over everyone. Y6S2 looks fantastic!

      • reply
        May 23, 2021 10:45 PM

        Poor Liquid, I was kind of rooting for Nesk/Paluh but man, grinding through the lower brackets and double matches on finals day took it's toll. I kind of hate best of 5 with a map advantage for the upper bracket team, I understand why they do it but I also think it's a bit unfair. Their advantage should be they play less games... All said NiP played 7 games before finals while Liquid had to grind through 14 games before getting to the finals, and two of those just prior to the final match! It was a great watch though, some insane game play, those Brazilians love that 20 second meta.

Hello, Meet Lola